Should I buy James May's old Ferrari?
The pros and cons.
My good friend and colleague Mr. James May recently made a video post about the fact that he's selling his Ferrari:-
Now I refreshed my garage fairly recently, namely with my Porsche 911:-
However, Mr. May's car looks like a particularly nice example. When I bought my Porsche 911, I was also buying into a childhood dream. But I grew up when Magnum PI was on TV! So of course that particular Ferrari was always 'kind of' on my car bucket list.
To be fair, I wasn't even a huge fan of Magnum. Watching a moustachioed Tom Selleck ponce about a tropical island or something, solving crimes as and when he felt like it whilst living on some luxury estate, wasn't exactly a thrill. However, the car was. I grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, if anyone said they owned a Ferrari, they were either lying or talking about a die-cast model. The closest anyone had to a supercar around here was probably a Fiat X1/9 and even they weren't ten a penny. In Stoke in the mid-eighties most people were lucky to be driving a Cavalier L, if they had a GLS they were probably running the company. You can tell I was particularly fond of the Ferrari by the fact that of all my old model cars of that era, the Ferrari is in much better condition! It was something to be treasured, rather than something for a 6 year old to re-create NCAP safety crash testing with:-
So What about Mr. May's car?
Well, I've located the advertisement, it's here.
May's old Ferrari
The first thing I have to say is; this is a thing of beauty. It has sexier curves than Heather Locklear playing Sammy Jo Carrington (sorry about the analogy - I'm trying to keep it contemporary to the car) , and I suspect it's a car which can't really be done justice to with photos. If you're looking for an automotive objet d'art, to stick in the foyer of your $17,000,000 mansion, then this might be it!
It IS also quite a special version of the car. According to Mr. May this is a rare 'steel-bodied' version. This is corroborated in the advertisement. I didn't actually know any of these existed. I thought they were all tubular steel chassis with a GRP body to keep the weight down? Whether it being steel-bodied is an advantage, I can't say. It MUST weigh more, but Mr. May certainly seems to think this is a good thing.
It's also right-hand-drive. This indeed appears to be a rare trait for this particular model of Ferrari. Most of the ones you see for sale are LHD and still making good money. He also claims it's an early carburettor model with the 'desirable dry sump'. Which sort of means stuff to me, but not much. All in all, from the evidence available to me, I deduce that this is a very nice example of the 308, but does that mean I should buy it?
Well Why is Captain Slow Selling it?
He says he doesn't love it anymore. He claims buying it was really fulfilling a childhood dream and thus exorcising a demon. I think I know what he means about this. There were certain cars I used to dream of owning as a child, except my dad was always too boring to get one. The most exciting car he had when I was a kid was his 1988 Opel Manta GTE, though I will admit that was actually a seriously cool car, and I loved it. But he never got a Fiat X1/9, A Jaguar XJS, a Porsche 911 or a Ferrari. I think the equivalent car for me, to May's 308 would be the Lamborghini Diablo. I remember owning an old copy of redline with an article in it featuring a bright yellow Diablo and that started a dream to own one, which probably never truly went away. I don't think it would go away until I bought one either. However, I suspect even if I COULD buy one, I probably wouldn't. I know practically speaking they are really stupid cars. You can't see out, there's no room, you daren't leave it anywhere, it costs a fortune to fix. you can't drive around here for the speedbumps and potholes. The pleasure of owning it would probably start to dwindle the more I drove it. Especially knowing that every time I put miles on it I was knocking thousands off the value.
So SHOULD you buy May's 308?
Well, when I listen to Mr. May describe the sort of person who SHOULD buy the car... My instinct is no. I probably couldn't afford it now anyway. I remember years ago seeing one of these for sale for £25,000 locally. Somebody probably did quite well on that sale. But James's has gone down in value. It's perhaps a classic that has peaked for the time being and buying it as an investment is only going to pay off if you keep it until such a time as you're no longer allowed to drive petrol cars. (Thanks Greta!)
Even if I COULD afford it and I decided I DID want a Ferrari... I sadly, really don't think it'd be the Ferrari for me. I can understand why James has put it to a dealer to sell for him. I'd have quite enjoyed calling at his house, then poking around his garage talking 'car stuff' over a brew while we negotiated price. But that would've never happened anyway. I'm the sort of person who decides what I want, then only has a test drive to confirm my choice as the final step before a purchase. I don't like test driving frivolously - it seems unfair to sellers to be wasting their time unless I'm really serious about buying a car and I don't think I could be serious about buying May's 308.
I bought my 911 on the strength of it being a sportscar you can drive every day, and that simply isn't the case with the 308. It'd be garage jewellery. Something to boast about down the pub (COVID19 social distancing measures allowing). Something to take to classic car shows and something to get out on a Sunday and polish.
For the same money I could get an F360 Modena. It'd be newer, a more modern drive, more reliable and easier to live with daily. It'd be a much more sensible choice as a car to actually drive and use. For a bit more I could get a 612 Scaglietti - not an obvious choice, but at least I could take my family out in it and it'd be anonymous enough that I'd dare park it in more places than one of the more flamboyant Ferrari models. Even better, if I could throw a bit more in the budget I could get a California. It'd be more modern, more reliable and I'd have a hard-top convertible I could take the family out in.
So basically, that's a 'No' then?
Pretty much. I would LOVE to drive a Ferrari 308 GTS, even if just once. However, I really don't think I'd enjoy owning one. This particular one does benefit from James May being the previous owner. That's a good thing, not just because he's a celebrity motoring journalist and professional Clarkson baiter, but he's wealthy enough and concerned enough to have always made sure his 308 was well-maintained and in tip-top condition. That car will make somebody VERY happy, I'm sure. But that person won't be me!